Sometimes setbacks have a way of defining the path we embark on. For Paul Winkle Sr., Ready Mix Sales in South Florida, what he thought was a career-ending medical setback ultimately opened the door to fulfilling his purpose.
Paul has been with Ozinga for 55 years. He first started as a driver in 1964 at Ozinga’s first yard in Evergreen Park, IL when the company only had nine trucks. In the years since then, Paul has built relationships with countless customers who love him. But in 2003, Paul lost his voice to cancer, and his hope of continuing a successful career with Ozinga seemed lost—he didn’t know how he could continue to do a job he loved and worked hard for without the ability to speak.
“When I lost my voice in 2003, Marty Ozinga II and Marty Ozinga III came to visit me at the hospital after my laryngectomy surgery.,” said Paul. “I looked up at them and wrote ‘I guess I’m done’.” But what Paul didn’t expect to happen next changed his entire perspective. “They prayed with me and said, ‘You’re not done; if you can write you have a job’.”
At first, Paul had to do everything in writing. Having a mortgage and kids to take care of wasn’t making matters any easier, but he was determined. That’s when he met doctors and specialists who introduced him to a speaking instrument, called an electrolarynx, that helped him talk again.
“I came back to work after about six months and I was using my instrument,” said Paul. “Every night, I would practice my ABCs.”
For hours, Paul would work on his pronunciation. After a while, he was able to order cheeseburgers from the drive-through again. Today, Paul is living his purpose and traveling all over the country to conventions to give other laryngectomees – patients facing the same setback Paul was many years ago – hope.
“[Paul] brings all of the positive spirit possible to how he lives each day and contributes back to others,” said Philip Doyle, Professor and Senior Research Scientist. “While some might see the loss of his normal voice as a disability, it obviously has not stopped him from moving forward and living each day to the fullest.”
Paul met Doctor Philip Doyle in 2006 at the Annual International Association of Laryngectomees Voice Institute. Since that initial meeting more than a dozen years ago, Paul has been instrumental with his contributions to both the laryngectomee community as well as to the young professionals learning speech pathology.
“Paul has helped me reach other laryngectomees in the local community by being an advocate and mentor figure,” said Lindsay Knapp, Territory Sales Manager at ATOS Medical. “Paul works with the Cleveland Clinic Speech Language Pathologists to meet with patients right before surgery to provide education and support and even helps new laryngectomees learn how to use their electrolarynx following surgery so they can find their new voice.”
When Paul is asked why he continues to help others, he says, “I want people to know that if I can do it, you can do it; giving others hope makes me feel good.”